Don’t spend any money
Walking is about as close to free transportation as it gets. If it was good enough for Thoreau…
Don’t buy a new bicycle
Can you adjust brakes and gears? Overhaul bearings? Recognize frame and wheel defects? Welcome to your Peoria-area craigslist. Skip the discount brands. You’re looking for good-quality used machines that originally came from bicycle shops. If it’s in good shape but out of style, so much the better for your wallet. On the other hand, if the owner thinks it’s a valuable antique, ask yourself why she’d sell it. Give it a good once-over before you buy. The frame and wheels must be in perfect shape. You can always buy new tires or a seat. If you have to replace much more than that, the bike’s too expensive.
Think twice before you buy a discount store bicycle
You may save money up front compared to a bicycle from a bike shop, but you may also be buying expensive problems down the road. Is the bicycle assembled? Who assembled it? The employee that just got finished with the whirl-a-tilt basketball goal? What’s the warranty? Service policy?
Buy from a bicycle shop
One of the great things about bicycle-shop bikes is they come with warranties and service policies. Ask your dealer about brake and gear adjustments after the sale. Another great thing is that good bicycle shops encourage test rides. Take advantage of the offer. Maybe you’re thinking, “I’ve got ‘x’ to spend.” Great, you have a budget.
Not sure whether you want a hybrid, a mountain bike, a folder or something else? Ride them all.
Still not comfortable with spending money? Do yourself a favor: before you buy, ride at least three bikes: one that’s in your price range, one that’s close to your price but from a different company, and one that costs at least twice as much as the first bike. You’ll either decide to spend more money, or you’ll feel even better about sticking to your initial budget. Either way: you win. After all, if you ride the first bike three months and then go back to buy the more expensive bike, you spent more money than you needed to.
Wait for your inheritance to arrive
Yeah, like that’s going to happen.
UPDATE: Really? Gotta buy from a bicycle shop? You bet. Here’s the visual proof from EcoVelo.